All-Star Panel: Clinton's criticism of Obama calculated?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 13, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I disagree with those who say this shows what a hawk Hillary Clinton is, what a moderate. I think that is essentially misreading her real philosophy. But I think she is reading the polls and say I've got to have distance between myself and Obama, and it's because he's incompetent and I'm not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to hug it out with the president?

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Absolutely. Yeah, we're looking forward to it. We're going to be there tonight. We have disagreements as any partners and friends as we are might very well have. But I'm proud that I served with him and for him and I'm looking forward to seeing him tonight.


SHANNON BREAM, ANCHOR: Some public criticism, maybe a private make up. Let's talk about it with our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, you're back, welcome back, Ron Fournier, senior political columnist of National Journal, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. All right, gentlemen, a lot to consider here, because there is a question for Hillary Clinton, Steve, about how this looks. They say they are going to hug it out tonight. We won't see any pictures. There won't be full coverage or anything like that. So does it look, though, opportunistic if she's too critical of the president at this point? Does she risk that?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah. I mean, I think it looks opportunistic. She's in a sort of a can't-win position because it looks opportunistic no matter what she does now, and that's in part because what we've heard from her and her spokesmen – her representatives has been absurd. At first she comes out and she gives what I think is probably pretty close to her real views on Syria, on a number of issues, and she's critical of President Obama, more critical than she's been in the past.

And then you have her spokesman come out and try to clean this up and patch it up, and, you know, where Hillary Clinton said, you know, basically don't do stupid stuff is not an organizing principle. Her spokesman comes up and said that wasn't in reference to President Obama. Well, of course it was a reference to President Obama. Those are his words. Who else would it be a reference to?

And I think, this kind of dispute, the kind of positioning that we're watching here, the video you just played of Hillary Clinton pretending they are best buddies, this is why people hate Washington. It's totally phony all the way around, and it's what I think we can come to expect for the next two years.

BREAM: Well, and Ambassador Bolton there said if you think she's suddenly turned more hawkish, it's not about that. She sees the polls and she wants it to be that he's incompetent but she's competent. Speaking of one of those polls, a brand new Fox News poll is out tonight, and this is a light-hearted one, but it was about your summer vacation. Would you rather spend your summer vacation with Hillary and Bill, Michelle and Barack, or neither? Hillary and Bill 42 percent, Michelle and Barack way back at 25 percent. Ron, is she reading these polls? Maybe not this one, it just came out, but if she's watching.

RON FOURNIER, SENIOR POLITICAL COLUMNIST, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Yeah she is and I agree with Steve. You, know if you can't be honest about your honest differences, what are you going to be honest about. You're exactly right. Her position is what she said to my colleague Jeff Goldman at The Atlantic. It was a smart, well-informed, consistent criticism of the president. And it might even be right. Her problem is, as you say, she backed off of that.

And my problem is yesterday, I wrote a column saying she's being smart, she's being authentic, and unless I'm being naive, she's being authentic here and she's doing -- she's being honest. It wasn't three or four hours she puts out a statement and I had to retract. I had to do a correction in my column saying I was naive because she's not being authentic. She's being phony.  She's playing politics.

Actually, if she really was looking at the polls, the smart thing to do is be consistent what she did the first time out, because most Americans actually aren't as hawkish as she is. Most of the base, the Democratic base is certainly to the left of she is. So, she's not only doing bad politics now, but she's looking inauthentic doing it. I can't figure it out.

BREAM: All right, a couple of other polls here just out tonight as well about confidence in President Obama's ability to make the right decisions for the U.S. -- 52 percent say they are confident in his ability, 47 percent say not confident. And then we get to his job performance, President Obama's job performance, 42 percent approve, 49 percent disapprove. Now, Charles, he and the White House have got to be thinking about his legacy. But Hillary Clinton may be thinking about being president.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, that's why we're getting the hug-in tonight. Let me just say, the country is already in the grips of an epidemic of hugging. And such a public and open display of hugging, I think can only make things worse. So I would deplore it on those grounds alone.

BREAM: Hugging make things worse?

KRAUTHAMMER: There's much too much of it going on in the country.

BREAM: You heard it hear.


FOURNIER: So there will be no hugging at this table.

BREAM: Charles is anti-hugginh.

KRAUTHAMMER: Save the Grinch. But as you guys were saying, this is such a blatant display of Clinton inauthenticity. It's breathtaking. She did finally appear to say something that she believes and then of course retracted it.

But remember, with these people, meaning the Clintons, do you ever know if they are saying anything sincere? Remember the last time she ran, she decided as she told Bob Gates, the former secretary of defense, openly, that she opposed the surge in Iraq, the one that was successful, for political reasons, which shocked Gates to hear because she was up against Obama, the anti-war senator in the Iowa primary. So she moved left the last time around. And now because she's not going to face a serious challenge on her left, she is now maneuvering to the center for her current run and expressing more hawkish opinions than the Obama administration.

So you never actually have any idea of what is the core belief. And I think if she finally ended up saying that you thought was inauthentic and withdraws it with a hug within a day, she's in trouble.

FOURNIER: Her problem has never been her policies. Her problem in 2008 wasn't that she was too right or too left. It was that people didn't believe that she believed anything. This inauthenticity issue is her biggest bugaboo, and she ran right into it with that statement yesterday.

BREAM: And after giving an interview, apparently some from her camp reached out to the White House. They know that something was going to come from this and sort of gave a heads up to the White House, saying there is this interview is coming out, reportedly. And after it came out she, herself, called the president apparently yesterday. So Steve, she seems like a very intelligent woman. She's not new to politics. So at what point did she decide what she said was something she wish she hadn't?

HAYES: Look, I've said this here before. I don't think she's good at politics.  I think she's an overrated public official. People are saying now she's unpolished. She hasn't been working her political muscles. I think that's nonsense. I don't think she was that good in 2008. I don't think she's that good now.

The problem she faces is the dynamic that she's in the middle of that we're seeing play out right now is unlikely to change any time soon because her challenge is that she needs to create distance from the president and his foreign policy because it's a disaster and because it's unpopular, he's getting low marks, as we showed on the screen. But she played a huge role in formulating that. She was his top foreign policy adviser for four years.  And, I think, crucially, as Charles suggests, the Democratic base still believes in what President Obama is doing. That's where she's going to need to win if she's going to win the Democratic nomination, if she runs.  She's going to need that support. So she can't go off on President Obama for those reasons.

FOURNIER: Let's talk a little bit about President Obama. Why is the President of the United States so thin-skinned that he can't let his former secretary of state, who he owes and allegiance to, can't let her say maybe we should have armed the Syrian rebels? She even said I don't know how it would have turned out, but I think we should have done it. He couldn't even let her get away with that. He had to sic his attack dogs on her, a very 1990s, old kind of politics thing to do, and this is supposed to be the man who is above all that.


BREAM: Legacy, as we discussed.

FOURNIER: Let the policy rule your legacy. Your legacy shouldn't be that you're beating up --

HAYES: He can't afford to do that.

KRAUTHAMMER: And all this is happening with Putin on the march, ISIS on the march, Kurds and others perishing on mountain tops, and he's concerned over a line from Hillary, the former secretary of state. And you're right -- so thin-skinned he has to respond. You would hope he responds to some of the crisis.

BREAM: Thank you panel. Speaking of Putin, next up, Russia, Ukraine, and a surprising statement from our defense secretary.

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